Environment

  • Flood insurance is not available to Canadian homeowners – should it be?

    Canada is the only G8 country in which insurance against overland flooding is not available to homeowners — but does it have to remain that way? A study released Monday explores issues related to flooding and property insurance, aiming to advance informed discussion of the potential better to protect Canadian homeowners. It reveals that while insurance executives are concerned about the lack of flood insurance and agree on many of the associated issues, opinions remain mixed concerning its viability in Canada.

  • Sewage treatment removes widely used home and garden insecticides from wastewater

    Even though sewage treatment plants are not designed to remove tiny amounts of pesticides, they do an excellent job of dealing with the most widely used family of home and garden insecticides, scientists reported. The use of pyrethrins, derived from chrysanthemum flowers, and the related synthetic pyrethroids, has been on the increase during the last decade. Researchers found that advanced sewage treatment reduced the levels of pyrethroids by more than 97 percent.

  • Calculating the cost of a ton of mountaintop removal coal

    To meet current U.S. coal demand through surface mining, an area of the Central Appalachians the size of Washington, D.C., would need to be mined every eighty-one days. This is about sixty-eight square miles — or roughly an area equal to ten city blocks mined every hour. A 1-year supply of coal would require converting about 310 square miles of the region’s mountains into surface mines.

  • Canada addresses environmental concerns over Keystone XL

    Canadian prime minister Stephen Harper sent a letter to President Barack Obama last month offering to participate in joint efforts to reduce greenhouse-gas emissions in order to win approval of the Keystone XL Pipeline. Harper’s offer may allow Obama to approve the project without having to confront environmental groups.

  • Calculating the energy required to store wind and solar power on the grid

    Renewable energy holds the promise of reducing carbon dioxide emissions. There are times, however, when solar and wind farms generate more electricity than is needed by consumers. Storing that surplus energy in batteries for later use seems like an obvious solution, but a new study from Stanford University suggests that might not always be the case.

  • New technique developed to assess the cost of major flood damage

    A new approach to calculating the cost of damage caused by flooding was presented at the International Conference of Flood Resilience: Experiences in Asia and Europe which was held last week. The methodology combines information on land use with data on the vulnerability of the area to calculate the cost of both past and future flooding events.

  • “Climate Change, Water Conflicts, and Human Security” report released

    Increasingly, climate change and the associated increase in the frequency of extreme weather events such as floods, droughts, and rising sea level, are acknowledged as not only having humanitarian impacts, but also creating national and regional political and security risks. While people and governments can adapt to these impacts, their capacity to do so varies.

  • Study links prehistoric climate shift to asteroid or comet impact

    For the first time, a dramatic climate shift which has long fascinated scientists has been linked to the impact in Quebec of an asteroid or comet. The event took place about 12,900 years ago, at the beginning of the Younger Dryas period, and marks an abrupt global change to a colder, dryer climate, with far-reaching effects on both animals and humans.

  • Future of coal in Australia riskier than renewables

    Coal-fired electricity may have little or no economic future in Australia, even if carbon capture and storage becomes commercially available, a new analysis has found. The study shows that coal with carbon capture and storage scenarios are likely to struggle to compete economically with 100 percent renewable electricity in a climate-constrained world, even if carbon capture and storage is commercialized by 2030.

  • Global warming increasing risk of record heat: scientists

    Drought shriveled crops in the Midwest, massive wildfires raged in the West, and East Coast cities sweltered. The summer of 2012 was a season of epic proportions, especially July, the hottest month in the history of U.S. weather record keeping. As the world warms, it is likely that we will continue to see such calamitous weather. Scientists caution against trying to determine whether global warming caused any individual extreme event, but they say that the observed global warming clearly appears to have affected the likelihood of record heat.

  • Crop pests spread as Earth warms, threatening global food security

    Currently 10-16percent of global crop production is lost to pests. Losses of major crops to fungi, and fungi-like microorganisms, amount to enough to feed nearly 9 percent of today’s global population. These figures will increase further as global temperatures continue to rise, and a new study shows that global warming is resulting in the spread of crop pests toward the North and South Poles at a rate of nearly three km a year.

  • Using desalination to secure water in the desert

    Researchers are working on an innovative project to secure water supplies in desert communities which suffer from having an acute shortage of fresh water, but abundant hypersaline groundwater. Hypersaline water is even saltier than seawater.

  • Wildfires to worsen with climate change

    Air quality has vastly improved over much of the United States in the past forty years as a result of government efforts to regulate emissions. Gradual climate change may contribute in the coming years to increases in significant, disruptive events like severe storms, floods, and wildfires. A Harvard model predicts wildfire seasons by 2050 will be three weeks longer, up to twice as smoky, and will burn a wider area in the western United States. These increasing wildfires may erase some of the progress made on air quality.

  • Sandy Task Force issues sixty-nine rebuilding recommendations

    The Hurricane Sandy Rebuilding Task Force, appointed by President Obama and chaired by Housing and Urban Development secretary Shaun Donovan,  last week release its much-anticipated report, in which it  lays out sixty-nine policy recommendations for improving areas affected by Hurricane Sandy last October. The report stressed the importance of investment in new and better construction to withstand increasingly dangerous storms and surges caused by climate change.

  • Jersey shore towns build protection against future storms

    Mantoloking and Brick townships in New Jersey were among the hardest hit by Superstorm Sandy. The storm also destroyed the natural dune barriers which offered a measure of protection. The two cities have decided to take action to minimize the damage of inflicted by a future storm: a $40 million project will see a steel wall —extending sixteen feet above the beach with a depth of thirty-two feet below the ground, and covered in sand to form an artificial dune — will run along the length of the two towns.